The Top Level Domain (“TLD”) “.tel” became available for registration on December 3, 2008. This new TLD offers attributes unique to any other TLD on the Internet because it is designed to provide domain name owners the ability to control their communication with customers by creating a communications hub. Specifically, “.tel” will allow companies and individuals to create a virtual address book – a one-stop repository for phone numbers, websites, Google® keywords, physical addresses and email addresses. Telnic, a United Kingdom-based company, will oversee the introduction and administration of the new TLD.
Telnic touts the benefits of owning a “.tel” domain name as increasing online visibility and customer access. Telnic claims that owners of “.tel” domain names will be able to store a variety of contact information directly within the DNS, meaning that information will be readily available to users without the need to connect to a website. Owners will be able to publish keywords for separate departments or locations and those keywords will be indexed and used by leading search engines. The configuration is intended to allow information to be transferred faster than loading web pages, making it especially useful when customers are using a hand-held device.
Trademark owners will be given first priority to take advantage of the new TLD, but that priority exists only for a limited period of time. Telnic will be administering a “sunrise” period until February 3, 2009, wherein current trademark owners may apply for “.tel” domain names for their brands, products and businesses. On February 3, 2009, when the “sunrise” period ends, there will be a brief “landrush” period until March 24, 2009, when domain names will be open to registration by anyone, but at a premium price. Domain names registered during the “landrush” period will carry a three-year minimum registration term. Once the “landrush” period ends, “.tel” domain name registrations will only carry a one-year minimum term.
As with the launch of any new TLD, businesses must evaluate what makes economic sense when affirmatively attempting to protect marks on the Internet, particularly when it comes to making decisions about which domain names to register. Certainly, the possibility of cybersquatting increases with each new TLD, and “.tel” will be no exception. Moreover, given the structure of the “.tel” registry, trademark owners are going to have to be even more vigilant in protecting their marks and the keywords associated with those marks as they may appear in this new TLD.
This Client Alert has been prepared by Lewis and Roca LLP for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. Readers should seek professional legal advice on matters involving these issues.
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